Tag Archives: unexpected

Seeing Stars: NPM #23

I never need an excuse to walk on the beach, but if I did need one, low tide is the best of all reasons! Though gloomy and gray today, the tide was nice and low, giving a wide expanse for walking and exposing the intertidal zone–more commonly known as tide pools.

Most of the time when I peer into the tide pools I see sea anemones, mussels, and crabs, some sea grass and algae and not much else. We often talk about how rare it is to see a sea star–even though they are native to our area. Today as we walked near the tide pools, my husband noticed a woman putting what looked like sea star into a shallow pool. We headed in that direction.

Sure enough, there it was. A quite large–the size of my hand or maybe bigger–sea star was sitting in the pool. As we stopped and looked we could see the tiny tube feet moving, propelling the star–it was alive! So many questions–where did she find the star? Was it in one of these shallow pools? Was she rescuing it, returning it to the watery pool? Or did she pull it from a pool and was now returning it?

As we left, the tide was on the way up. I’m sure the sea star will find its way back to the place where it lives, somewhere where I seldom see them. I’m glad I got a close look today…so it could provide fodder for today’s poem.

Seeing Stars

Stars in the inky sky

wink, tiny night lights

creating pictures

like dot-to-dots

Under the sea

stars undulate

moving on tiny tubes

unexpected treasure


Not the Original Plan: Day 10

Somehow we didn’t plan on snow.  We knew when we went to bed last night that our outdoor activities for the day today would involve snow and rain, so after some thinking and a bit of research we decided that we would snowshoe today.  No, neither or us had ever snowshoed before but a place up the road offered snowshoe rentals, so why not?

The rain was coming down when we left for our adventures this morning.  We bought a couple of emergency rain ponchos in hopes of keeping somewhat dry.  The guy who rented us the snowshoes gave a quick demo of how to strap them on…and we were off!  How did we not know about snowshoeing before?  We hiked miles through the local forests on Mt. Hood…in the rain and in the spaces of unexpected sunshine that we experienced as we walked.

snowshoeing photos


Ka-thump, ka-thump

one foot in front of the other

crunching through

the white powdery snow.

Each step takes me deep

into the white of my thoughts

cooled by the frozen landscape

warmed by the blood coursing through my veins.

The forest cradles me

its silence quieting

the noise and rush of daily life

each step brings me closer

to understanding myself.

Ka-thump, ka-thump.

Douillard 2018

blue in the snowy forest

And a bit of whimsy. from my students..a poem about the escape of a hamster:

Hammy time!

Hammy I’m sorry
That I left your cage
Open that night, you were
Gnawing at chemicals, partying
In the walls  racing through tunnels,
Hiding in the lower sink,and sleeping under
The couch. I’m sorry for what I did, even though you liked it, I really really missed you.

By Rylan

And a fun one about bear slippers that just came via my email!

Bear Slippers


Bear slippers

on my bare feet


even though it scares my dogs

it’s still funny

like them


cozy slippers on my feet




15 Seconds of Fame

While the midwest and east have been blasted with arctic storms and crazy wind chills, here in San Diego weather has been mild and warm with Christmas temperatures in the 70s on the beach.  We had that moment in the spring where it seemed like the years-long drought was over only to have months without rain capped by devastating wildfires throughout California in late November and December.

After two weeks off for winter break, we returned to school today.  Fresh faced kids greeted me with tales of their holiday exploits, eager to be back with friends and ready to get back to the business of school.  I am grateful to teach a room full of kids who love to learn.  And all day we could feel the weather change in the air.  Clouds gathered and loosed a few droplets here and there throughout the day, but the real rain held off.

stormy ocean

An after school meeting encroached on my afternoon walk, but I felt the urge to head to the beach, even for a few minutes, to see if I could snap a few photos of the approaching storm.  It was gray but not yet dark as I pulled up to park at my favorite beach.  I grabbed my camera and stepped out of the car only to have the wind slap me with a face full of sand.  I made my way to the edge of the cliff to see what images would appear in my viewfinder and snapped a couple of shots when I was approached by a young woman with a microphone.

windy seaIt turns out the woman was a reporter from a local news station in need of someone to interview about the weather.  She told me I’d be doing them a favor if I would come over and answer a few question (on camera!).  So, as the wind whipped and the raindrops started to fall, I talked about the weather on camera.  When I got home, I turned on the news…and with perfect timing, my husband walked in the door from work in time to see my 15 second interview!  And I managed to videotape it on my phone from our TV…thus my 15 seconds of fame!  (Here’s a screenshot, you can see the video footage on my Instagram post if you are interested.)on TV



A Bear and a Bridge

This really is a month for the unexpected!  On our last day at Yellowstone, we set off early knowing we were heading toward the other side of the park and hoping that an early start would bring more opportunities to see wildlife.

As we sipped our coffee and drove down the road, we suddenly saw a bear ambling across the road.  You might remember from yesterday’s post that Geoff had his heart set on seeing a bear during our visit…so imagine our excitement and the jolt of adrenaline when we spied the bear ahead of us on the road!  I grabbed my phone as the bear looked up and headed off to the side of the road.  I started taking pictures as it headed off, stopping and looking back at us then continuing into the trees.

bear in action

I was excited that the photos captured the bear…and with some editing, showed some of what we saw.  After consulting with some folks at an information center, we think this is a grizzly based on the hump on the back and the fact that it is collared.  (They said they believed only the grizzlies are collared in the park…not the black bears.)



This bear sighting was truly the cherry on the top of this trip to Yellowstone!  Even the rainy day couldn’t dampen our spirits or spoil our adventures.

As a lark, later in the day we decided to take what we thought was a quarter mile hike to a natural bridge in the rain.  Donning our rain jackets with hoods on, we headed down the path through the woods.  That quarter mile turned out to be at least a three-mile round trip in a steady downpour…and totally worth it!  The natural bridge was spectacular!

natural bridge

We ended our day with dinner at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, a delicious and relaxing ending to three days in the park.  The rain stopped and the sky brightened.  As we drove out of the park towards our hotel, the sun and clouds gathered to create a gorgeous skyscape.  We stopped not far from the arch to take this final photo at Yellowstone.


Our time in Yellowstone has been amazing, filled with the unexpected.  We’ve enjoyed exploring the natural beauty, spending lots of time outdoors, and piquing our interests to learn more about the natural world.

There is so much more to say…and so many more photos I’ve taken on this trip.  I’m sure you will be hearing more about my adventures in Montana and Wyoming!

Beyond Old Faithful

Today’s Yellowstone adventures took us well beyond Old Faithful and the thermal features that marked our first day in the park.  Today we set out in search of wildlife and waterfalls and found so much more.

Geoff loves bears…and has his heart set on seeing a bear in the park, so we headed toward the northwest entrance and the Lamar Valley where folks at the Yellowstone Association recommended for possible wildlife viewing.  And while we didn’t see bears, we did see some other wildlife.

We followed a road we didn’t travel yesterday, and not far into our drive Geoff saw this amazing bird of prey.  He quickly turned the car around and passed by it again…as it sat and posed while I took its photo through the open car window.  A bit of research has us believing it is a golden eagle.

golden eagle

After such a great beginning we were optimistic as we headed off the beaten path and followed a dirt road for 6 miles in search of other animals.  We saw beautiful meadows and listened to the songs of birds as we drove the bumpy, dusty path at about 10 miles per hour with the windows open…but nothing beyond birds and squirrels showed themselves.  As we headed into the Lamar Valley we were feeling much less optimistic when we noticed cars pulling off the side of the road.  In Yellowstone, that is a signal that someone has spotted something of interest.  And sure enough, there were buffalo…a lot of them in the distance. Over a stretch of about 10 miles we saw several herds and some big bull buffalo right up close to the edge of road.  We watched them wallow in the mud and listened to them grunt.  The calves frolicked as the adults ate and rested.  This guy was pretty uninterested in the traffic, people with cameras, and even noisy motorcycles going by.  And he made a great photo opportunity for me.  If you look closely, you can see the rest of the herd in the distance.

buff and his herdLater in the day, with the help of a photographer with a huge telescopic lens, we located an osprey in a nest with chicks out on a rock formation in the canyon.  If you know what you are looking for, it is barely visible in this shot.  Geoff was able to get a shot where you can see the birds using a camera with a more powerful zoom than my iPhone.

Osprey nestToward the end of our day, we also caught a glimpse of some elk and some mule deer…but not close enough for photos.

In addition to wildlife, we also saw amazing waterfalls and canyons today…and spent some time at over 8800 feet!  There is still evidence of the devastation of wildfires in some areas, but there are also spectacular forests and green meadows.  Here’s a view across the meadow at well over 8800 feet.

high altitude meadow

I was surprised to learn that Yellowstone has its own version of the Grand Canyon.  As we headed out to Artist Point, we saw both the spectacular Canyon Falls and canyon views to take your breath away!  I was lucky and glimpsed a raptor in flight, catching the dark wings and white head.  I think it may have been an osprey in flight.  Catching the just right light to bring the colors to life in a photograph is challenging, but I think this one begins to catch the beauty. This particular spot makes it clear why the park is called Yellowstone.

Yellowstone's grand canyon

And a little unexpected treat…way up high on an overlook above Canyon Falls a couple asked me to take their photo.  And after I did and handed them back their camera, as I was about to walk away without taking a photo of my own…I was feeling uncomfortable way up high and feeling like I had taken photo after photo of these falls, I noticed a rainbow!

Rainbow over canyon fallsThese few pictures are only a scratch on the surface of today’s adventures.  It was another day filled with the unexpected and the wonder, beauty and majesty of our natural world.  We have another adventure planned for tomorrow…what more will we find in this amazing place?


In Search of the Unexpected: August’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

August means deep summer; those warm, sun-drenched days when energy wanes and you look forward to a light summer read and cool drink, preferably in front of a water source.  It’s easy to stop noticing and see each day as a replica of the one before, sameness after sameness lulling your senses into summer-time hibernation.

There’s nothing like a camera lens to wake up the senses…especially if you are on the lookout for the unexpected.  Sometimes it is the sound that first captures your attention…this military helicopter came unusually low to the ground as I walked on the beach, swooping in close to the cliffs along the shoreline.  Military helicopters are usual—but so close we could wave at the pilot and he waved back is unexpected!


At the zoo, it was the unexpected color—or lack of color—that attracted my attention.  Baby flamingos are fluffy and gray, in great contrast to their vibrant elders.  These guys almost look like they were photoshopped to black and white.


Hiking can bring it’s share of the unexpected as well.  Climbing to the top of Mt. Woodson we found some natural beauty, along with a forest of communication towers!


And on another hike, this phone booth sat along the trail…I guess you never know when you might need to make a call!  (I didn’t check to see if it was in working condition.)

unexpected-phone booth

Where I live, we seldom find the unexpected in the weather.  Night and morning low clouds with afternoon sunshine is almost a mantra for forecasters.  So the unexpected rain the other morning created quite a stir at the restaurant while we breakfasted.  Lightening flashed and thunder boomed…and the raindrops poured from the sky.  Walking across the street to the car had me walking in ankle deep runoff!


At UCSD, I had walked by this metal tree many times…there are a few as part of an art collection there.  But until a few weeks ago, I had not noticed the contrast between the organic shape of the metal tree and the angular lines of the distinctive architecture of the library behind it.  The unexpected similarities and differences made me pause when I saw it from this new angle.

unexpected-metal tree

It was a gathering crowd that drew my attention as I walked down the beach yesterday.  A surf class? A party?  No…a dead shark with a not-so-dead octopus slithering out of its mouth.  The crowd moved in, fascinated by the close up view of this creature.  I found myself equally interested in the people in the crowd, the ways their bodies leaned in.  And notice the mom holding onto her boys…


And my macro lens can always be depended on to help me see unexpected beauty.  I’ve been watching the dandelions in my yard (there are only two or three) and photographing the different stages of their growth.  Between the yellow flower and the iconic fluff ball stage, there is a stage where the dandelion looks dead.  But through my macro lens, I was able to capture the hint of what was yet to come.


So August’s challenge is to look for the unexpected as you enjoy the last of the long light and warm days (at least in the northern hemisphere).  And to help you look, here are some prompts—one per day—to focus your attention and spur your thinking.

1. People

2. Place

3. Nature

4. Plants

5. Animals

6. Horizon

7. Food

8. Transportation

9. Light

10. Home

11. Smell

12. Sound

13. Garden

14. Inside

15. Thing

16. Drink

17. Sky

18. Outside

19. Neighborhood

20. Weather

21. Early

22. Texture

23. Words

24. Interaction

25. Walk

26. Arrangement

27. Trash (#Litterati)

28. Architecture

29. Close up (Macro)

30. Landscape

31. Pleasure

Once you find the unexpected and capture a photo of it, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts.  If you are game for some more playfulness, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, make a video or slideshow or try a learning walk! You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section. It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

With summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time for some playfulness and experimentation…look for the unexpected in your world–let it surprise you, delight you, maybe even horrify you!  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can play this game by posting your pictures in the order of the prompts or post the one you find on the day you find it.  You get to make your own rules!  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

Enjoy taking photos? Love to share them with others? Welcome to this week’s photo challenge! (I post a new challenge every week…check in each week and join the fun!)

As I go through my daily life, there are lots of things, places, and people I see every day.  And while they are not the same from day to day, they are quite often as I expect.  But this week as I looked through my pictures to decide on the weekly challenge, I realized that instead of seeing what I usually see, this week I had opportunities to catch glimpses of the unexpected.

On Sunday I headed off to the lagoon for a walk.  My husband usually pushes for the gym, but I am much happier out walking in nature than on the treadmill.  The lagoon is filled with native plants and there were lots of lizards scurrying about in the mild sun.  I’m used to seeing plants that thrive in a low water environment like the prickly pear cactus.  But it was unexpected to see these cactus in full bloom!  And what beauty these scaly, spiny plants displayed.

prickly pear in bloom

After work on Monday I was trying to convince myself to head the gym (you might notice a theme here–the exercise habit is a hard one for me to establish consistency with!) when I remembered that the tide would be low at the time I was leaving.  I rolled up my pant legs and walked along the shore, convincing myself that this would count as exercise.  As I left the beach to drive home, I took a look in my mirror and was hypnotized by the beauty of the ocean in the mirror.  While this photo doesn’t quite do it justice…you get the idea of my feelings of the unexpected.

ocean in the mirror

Tuesday I had a few minutes before an appointment, so parked and decided to squeeze a quick photo walk and an iced coffee into my schedule.  I took photos of some interesting buildings, a mineral water place (unexpected, but not a great photo!), and then I noticed this beautifully painted fire hydrant.

scenic fire hydrant

Last night I had a late meeting at school, an information night for my multiage program.  We’ve also had a heat wave, complete with scary Santa Ana winds, so when I headed out the door to head home it was still quite warm.  I teach in a place where when I walk out my classroom door and head down the hall I have an amazing view of the ocean.  But yesterday as I headed toward my car, the sky was painted in oranges and reds as the flaming sun dipped into the Pacific Ocean, creating this gorgeous and unexpected sunset.

sunset from school

And today my students reached the point in a project we are doing that they got to plan and construct the circuits that would light up their art design and writing.  I knew the circuits would be tricky for little hands, and while optimistic, I wasn’t sure how successful they would be, at least on their first try with these materials.  The first, “It worked!” was both unexpected and amazing…and gives me confidence that this project is within reach for my young students.

circuit success

So this week’s photo challenge is to pay attention as you go through your daily life and be on the lookout for the unexpected.  Or you might look through older photographs with an eye for the unexpected.  Post either the photo alone or along with writing inspired by the photo. I also invite you to use others’ photos as inspiration for your own writing and photography. I often use another photographer’s image as “mentor text” for my own photography, trying to capture some element in my own way.

I like to share my images and writing on social media…and I invite you to share yours widely too. (You might consider Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+) Use the hashtag #unexpected and include @nwpianthology to make it easy for us to find and enjoy. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @kd0602. I’d love to follow you if you share your handle.

You can also share your photos and writing by linking to this blog post or sharing in the comment section below. Be on the lookout for the unexpected…who knows what this week’s challenge will bring!



The Joy of the Unexpected

As a photographer I am attracted to things I find beautiful…interesting shapes, saturated colors, cute furry animals, sweet children.  But today was different.

Using my macro lens, I was taking photos of a paperwhite bulb that is beginning to emerge, capturing the brilliant green shoots emerging from the jar.


But I wasn’t done exploring with my lens.  I noticed the orchid in the kitchen window still hanging onto the dried blossoms.  I should probably pull off these dead remnants, but instead I aimed my macro lens and captured a beautiful image of the dried and withered petals.


I headed outside into the unusually warm December morning, still looking for opportunities to get close.  I noticed this dried blossom on the hedge and leaned in.


Then I noticed the old wires on the part of the sprinkler system that has been disabled.  There’s a certain elegant beauty to the turquoise plastic revealing the coppery wire within.


I headed around the corner toward the hibiscus plant.  It has tiny shoots of green emerging along with dried remains of previous flowers.



And I have a love/hate relationship with spider webs.  They can be elegantly beautiful like delicate lace, especially when they capture drops of dew or rain.  And they can be a messy nuisance.  But when you look closely, you can see past the mess and notice the intricacies of design and the way the sunlight plays with the thin strands.


I found myself looking for things I would otherwise think of as ugly as I photographed with my macro lens this morning…and I found unexpected beauty and experienced the joy of discovery in my re-seeing.

All of these unedited photos are yet another reminder that there is plenty of beauty to find in our world if we take the time to look past the obvious and consider perspectives beyond what is conventionally accepted.

Where do you find beauty?  Do you find joy in the unexpected?

An Unexpected Appearance

I’ve been on the lookout for unexpected since I saw the Weekly Photo Challenge over at the Daily Post.  But when you are looking for the unexpected, somehow it just doesn’t show up.

With a day off from work today, I decided it was time to tackle that pile of odds and ends that ended up in an unused room because of some work we had done on the house…and we have some new urgency to get it dealt with since we are doing some more work on the house.  This is the pile that ends up in a cupboard somewhere because you can’t quite part with it, but you really don’t know what to do with it either.

Anyway, I picked up a green bound book that I thought was an old address book (back before we kept our contacts on our phones or computers).  When I flipped it open I discovered it was an old photo album.  Most of the pictures were of my husband when he was a baby with a few other odds and ends tucked into the pages.  And then what I thought was a postcard fell out.

It was that perfect postcard size that is so often used for advertising.  It had that “old school” look that modern apps work so hard to achieve.  But upon closer examination I discovered it was a picture of me!


This is a picture of the photograph taken with my iPhone, so you lose the actual size and some of the background off to the sides.

This unexpected photo brings back so many memories…most of them good ones.  I worked for McDonalds for more than 12 years before I went into teaching.  I learned so many skills and practices through my management experiences that have helped me as an educator.

It’s kind of scary to read those menu board prices (hamburgers 39 cents!) and realize that I was quite competent at calibrating that soda machine behind the counter (back in the day before serve yourself soda machines).  I inventoried and ordered all the raw product, scheduled employees for their shifts, kept ledgers of all the sales, hired, fired and trained employees (mostly teenagers a few years younger than I was), and so much more…

While it wasn’t rocket science or engineering, I did lots of systems thinking in my work at McDonalds.  There were many interconnecting components to consider each and every day…and sometimes I had to suffer the consequences when the decision I made didn’t have the intended result.

I like the way the unexpected spurs thinking.  This old photo has me thinking about so many things…my McDonald’s experiences, the changes in photography, wondering what happened to my old friend I used to work with and haven’t seen in years, and even the changes in fast food and the restaurant business.

My youngest son and his wife are coming home tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with us.  I think I’ll leave the photo out for him to see…